Think about the process you use right now to evaluate your team’s performance or assess candidates for open roles in your team right now. Is it crystal clear how to make an assessment and record relevant information? When the structure for evaluating performance contains ambiguity, we are more likely to rely on gender, race and other stereotypes to make decisions.
We tend to overestimate men’s performance and underestimate women’s performance. In a similar way, we tend to overestimate white people’s performance and underestimate Black people and other people of color’s performance at work, too. An experiment reported by the BBC showed that a job seeker with an English name, Adam Henton, was offered three times the number of interviews than an applicant with a Muslim name, Mohamed Allam. Despite the CVs detailing the same level of qualifications and experience.
Activities for Your Team
- Think about the last role you hired. For each stage of candidate review from resume screening to interviews, who defined the assessment criteria? How was the data collected and compared?
- Think about the last round of performance reviews. What adjectives were used to describe your performance? Were they detailed, specific and action-oriented? Were any evaluations vague or lacking in tangible suggestions for improvement?
- Think about the last team meeting. Divide speakers’ contributions into percentages of total speaking time. Who spoke for the majority of the meeting? What is their role and identity? Who felt like they were interrupted?
- Think about your last 1:1. Were you the line manager or direct report? Do you and your line manager/direct report share the same gender? Race? How often did you interrupt, or were you interrupted?
New Habits to Make a Difference
- Design rigorous documentation for each person participating in a recruitment or performance review process to eliminate inconsistencies and ambiguity.
- Push for evidence to justify decisions about who to hire and how scores were assigned in performance reviews.
- When giving team mates constructive feedback, especially if they are female, Black or another underrepresented identity, be as specific as possible, explaining what could be done differently next time to achieve better results.